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It may seem early, but it’s time to shift your focus to snow

May 10, 2022 -  By
Photo: jamievanbuskirk/E+/Getty Images

Photo: jamievanbuskirk/E+/Getty Images

The month of May is one of the most hectic times of the entire year for a landscape contractor. Customers meet to spend money. Contractors deliver and install annual flowers. Turf growth is at its peak. Irrigation systems are running. Weeds are growing in places they shouldn’t be. Shrubs have leafed out and anticipate the first pruning. Insects are munching away. In sum, the volume of activity is enormous. Some of you are experiencing this right now.

But for the snow contractor, something else is going on. Snow pros are shifting gears from landscape back to snow. Yes, a lot is going on with landscape operations. But in many respects, the landscape season is already finished from a planning perspective. The operations teams need to continue to execute, but the season is well underway and it’s time to turn our attention back to snow.

Get in first gear

So, what does it mean to shift gears back to snow? Great question. There are four important gears to get through. First gear is placing orders for equipment, tools, supplies and materials. This has never been more urgent in light of global supply chain issues.

Before placing orders, it may be necessary to review inventories, check on the status of repairs and make some projections about next winter. What needs retired and replaced? What needs added for growth? How many extras do you need on hand?

Some items may be completely unavailable. Wouldn’t you rather find that out in May versus October? I would.

Shift to second gear

Use second gear to expedite contract renewals. If your renewals are not yet completed, you may discover that you’ve already missed some opportunities. A growing trend in the commercial segment is to renew contracts at the tail end of winter. Getting renewals out in the summer is way too late.

However, before renewing contracts, it may be necessary to have an attorney review and update your sales contract and service partner agreements. You probably need to make price increase decisions. You may wish to propose a new contract format, different terms or an extended contract length.

All of this takes time and effort and may require meetings with your customers.

There may be some customers who choose not to renew. Wouldn’t you rather find that out in May versus October? I would.

On to third gear

In third gear, implement snow staffing plans. The organizational structure for a snow company is different from any other type of business and projected growth is an important factor in developing this structure. Now is the time to review your plan and make improvements. Determine where you have staffing needs and determine your plans to fill those holes.

However, before laminating your organizational chart, it may be necessary to become educated about best practices for structural design in the snow industry. You may want to engage your professional network to make sure your structure is optimal.

There may be some unexpected staffing needs that you were previously unaware of. Wouldn’t you rather find that out in May versus October? I would.

Hitting fourth gear

Fourth gear — while it is definitely not the “off-season” for landscaping — it is absolutely the off-season for snow. Now is the time for professional development.

Take a look at what the snow organizations have to offer. Check SnowFightersInstitute.com, ASCAOnline.org and SIMA.org. These organizations provide a wide range of educational and networking opportunities with peers and suppliers in the professional snow and ice industry.

It’s May. The grass is growing. The flowers are going in. Temperatures climb. But we all know that the snow is inevitably coming. It’s time to shift gears. Now go forth.

Phil Harwood

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at Phil@GrowTheBench.com. He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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